Super middleweight tournament planned

Showtime's six-man super middleweight round-robin tournament is on.

Without giving out specific details, the network issued a media alert Thursday afternoon inviting media to a "ground-breaking boxing announcement" on Monday afternoon at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Showtime announced six fighters would be present: 168-pound titleholders Carl Froch (25-0, 20 KOs) of England and Mikkel Kessler (41-1, 31 KOs) of Denmark; middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham (30-0, 24 KOs) of Germany, who is moving up in weight; former undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor (28-3-1, 17 KOs) of Little Rock, Ark., and rising American super middleweight contenders and 2004 Olympic medal winners Andre Ward (19-0, 12 KOs) of Oakland, Calif., and Andre Dirrell (18-0, 13 KOs) of Flint, Mich.

Also scheduled to be in attendance are Showtime boxing chief Ken Hershman, who carried the load in putting the ambitious project together, and the promoters of each fighter: Wilfried and Kalle Sauerland (Abraham and Kessler), Mick Hennessy (Froch), Lou DiBella (Taylor), Gary Shaw (Dirrell) and Dan Goossen (Ward).

"The six fighters, who have a staggering combined record of 161-4-1 with 117 knockouts, their respective promoters, and Hershman will all be on hand for this historic press conference," the press release said.

The final, critical piece of the puzzle was solved earlier Thursday when Sauerland Event signed Kessler, who had been in a dispute with former promoter Mogens Palle, to a promotional contract.

Although Showtime has been tight with details, ESPN.com obtained a copy of the master contract, which outlines the particulars.

The tournament, which will consist of nine preliminary bouts followed by the semifinals and final, begins Oct. 10 and is supposed to finish in May or June of 2011.

Win or lose, the six fighters will each fight at least three times with the top four advancing to the semifinals based on their point totals. Fighters get two points for a win, an additional point if it's by knockout and one point for a draw. There are all sorts of contingencies for situations such as a no contest or a tie in points. Contractually, mandatory bouts cannot interfere with a tournament fight.

The tournament is scheduled to begin with a split-site doubleheader on Oct. 10. In England, Froch will face Dirrell and in Germany, Abraham will face Taylor.

On Nov. 7, probably in Oakland, Kessler will defend against Ward. Other matches include Abraham against Dirrell in January in the U.S.; Froch against Kessler in March in Europe; Ward against Taylor in spring 2010 in the U.S.; Ward facing his Olympic teammate in summer 2010 in the U.S.; Froch against Abraham in summer 2010 in Europe; and Kessler against Taylor in the U.S. in fall 2010.

The semifinals would take place in January 2011 with the final to be held in the U.S. in May or June.

Tournaments of this caliber are rare in boxing. The last one that comes close was in 2001, when promoter Don King put together the World Middleweight Championship Series with HBO. It was far less complicated because it involved only three fights and four fighters -- Bernard Hopkins, Felix Trinidad, William Joppy and Keith Holmes -- all of whom were promoted by King. Also, all three fights took place at Madison Square Garden over the course of six months.

In that tournament, Hopkins beat Holmes to unify 160-pound belts, Trinidad moved up from junior middleweight to knock out Joppy to take his belt, and Hopkins knocked out Trinidad the final in an upset to become the undisputed champion.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.